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Romney's marriage vows

MITT ROMNEY was invited to be the lead-off witness before the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on gay marriage yesterday because this state is the only one to recognize gay marriages. And yet Romney's testimony focused very little on the actual experience in Massachusetts; instead it was a mostly philosophical treatise on the meaning of marriage in the abstract. Could this be because the reality of gay marriage is less of a threat than the alarmist rhetoric predicted?

Governor Romney's prepared remarks were heartfelt but repeated the old arguments opponents have raised ever since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that homosexual couples have the same rights to civil marriage as others. It was all there: the supposed ill effects on children; the dangers of judicial overreach; the undermining of civilization's defining pillar.

Yet more than a month since the first gay marriages, and after thousands of same-sex couples have committed their lives to one another, Romney couldn't point to any concrete damage to the Commonwealth or its institutions, and he was honest enough to tell the committee that "same-sex marriage doesn't hurt my marriage, or yours."

Romney does worry about harm to children, however, which is puzzling since Massachusetts has allowed unmarried same-sex couples to adopt and raise children for over a decade. Would he want to tear these children from loving homes?

Yesterday, Romney tried to say that the constitutional gay-marriage ban under consideration in Washington is not more restrictive than the Massachusetts amendment the Legislature narrowly advanced in March. But the Massachusetts amendment would explicitly establish civil unions, while the federal amendment says no state constitution can be construed as conferring marriage rights "or the legal incidents thereof" upon any union other than a heterosexual one.

Most Americans want politics out of their bedrooms, but politics was on resplendent display yesterday. Romney's moment in the national spotlight surely could whet his appetite for more. And the timing of the hearings seemed designed to embarrass John Kerry by forcing him to vote on the divisive issue just before the Democratic National Convention nominates him for president.

Kerry opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions, a position we on this page disagree with. Still, his view is consistent with a vote against a federal constitutional amendment, and we hope he does so. The nation's founding document of rights should not be ripped apart to insert a discriminatory clause.

Romney argued against bigotry yesterday but fretted over a society "indifferent about having fathers and mothers." Only when society indeed becomes indifferent to the everyday reality of gay couples living among us will Romney's call for "tolerance and understanding" be realized. 

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